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LBS owners/employees please read(33 posts)

LBS owners/employees please readgomer
Dec 18, 2001 2:40 PM
I'm in the market for a new road bike. I have surfed every imaginable site, posted msgs, asked all my friends - basically researched the hell out of it and have picked 2 bikes as my favs. I've ridden both in the "usual" fashion ( took my own pedals, rode for 20 mins. made adjustments rode another 20 etc.) I wanted to go back and reride my 2 favorites again for a longer time ( 1 - 1.5 hrs) to make sure the geometry was right for me. Both shops said they didn't want there customers "using up " their bikes on test rides and that a 20 minute spin was all they were willing to do. My question is: Is this reasonable? Do they really think I am am going to cough up 2 or 3 grand for something I haven't even worked up a sweat on? I can't believe the in-store bikes are not written off as demos and sold later in the year. Am I being unreasonable? The last time I purchased a new bike ( 5 yrs ago before gen-x) I felt I got a great deal of service from my old LBS.

Guidance please
re: LBS owners/employees please readpeloton
Dec 18, 2001 3:09 PM
I can't think of a shop that would let you take a test ride of that length. The mark up on bikes is very small, and the profit margin is also especially when you factor in overhead. Small shops in particular couldn't afford to have a 'write-off' fleet of demo bikes around. There simply isn't enough money in the majority of shops to tie up that much capital for a fleet like that. The harsh reality is that most local bike shops aren't making a killing and they really can't afford to let people ride their stock into the ground. Some shop mechs or owners might let you borrow their personal bike if they trust and like you, but you would have to be the correct size.

I would look more for a shop that is knowledgable in getting you on the right bike, and getting you set up. Asking for a shorter or longer stem, different pedals or saddle is probably more along the lines of what most shops could do, and you wouldnt' be unreasonable in asking for the shop to help make sure you are comfortable on the bike you are buying. How they treat you here is really the test of service. They really aren't being jerks by not letting you take the bike on a 30 mile haul. Many local shops are very good about making sure you are happy on the bike you buy. I would judge the service by what the shops reputation is for service post sale.

Just a former mech's 2 cents
Dec 18, 2001 3:23 PM
also a former shop wrench. Make the most out of a short test ride by getting tbe bike fairly dialed in/adjusted for you before you ride (and make sure the tires are the right psi!). Some shops will allow longer test rides, and/or you can always just go and come back when you please (though be warned you may find some annoyed shop employees when you return). At least it's a road bike--there were a few times I had to clean/fix mtbs after extended test rides.

I've actually only test ridden a few bikes before buying them--ironically, those are the bikes I didn't end up keeping. My keepers have all been bikes I bought without ever test riding (one was custom).
if you know them?Dog
Dec 18, 2001 3:37 PM
My favorite shop has, on several occasions, allowed my to take a bike for a weekend to try out. They even allowed my 80 year old mother-in-law to try a 3 wheeler for an entire week (but she never rode it). But then, I've probably spent, well, let's not get into that, "a lot" with this shop going back 21 years. Maybe having an established relationship with the shop owner helps. Not sure how you get there, though, without spending the money first. Might help to deal directly with the owner. If the owner is never there, I'd go somewhere else.

Dec 18, 2001 3:53 PM
at every shop I ever worked at there were always a certain number of "regulars" (shop flies?)--people who came in a lot and spent a decent amount of money and got along well with the employees. They would always get better service that some guy no one had ever seen before. I think that's probably true in most retail businesses.
I see..gomer
Dec 18, 2001 4:29 PM
Makes sense, I'm new to the road biking. My favorite shop deals mainly with mountain bikes and doesn't carry much in the way of name brands. Thanks for the perspective>

I'm still pissed, though not as much
I see..gtx
Dec 18, 2001 4:45 PM
what are the two bikes you've narrowed it down to and what are you hoping to figure out with longer test rides? There are some people on this board who might be able to shed some light on various issues with various bikes. If it's purely a fit issue, a good shop should be able to get you dialed in on a trainer before you take the test ride--you might want to go in on a weekday (not a Saturday).

Man, there are quite a few mtb FS designs I'd like to take on extended test rides. But who's gonna let me loose on a Ventana or Titus or Turner? Or the new SC Blur? Sometimes the builder will sponsor some kind of demo of their bikes, but you gotta be in the right place at the right time.
I see..gomer
Dec 18, 2001 7:11 PM
Cannondale R2k and the Litespeed Ti. I actually like the Cdale the best so far, I was worried about the stiffness of the frame on long rides so I wanted to see if the Al would be too harsh. I've posted here asking that very question and got a spectrum of answers ranging from "Its the best" to "It sucks". I guess its an individual thing. I'm coming off of an old lugged steel frame that is comfortable but not very responsive. I don't really want to spring for the Ti if the Al will do the job. I may be just being a little picky but I want a good long-term buy.
I see..gtx
Dec 18, 2001 7:42 PM
lol. Yeah, posting about C'dale or Litespeed will get you into trouble here--it's pretty much useless. And I can see why you'd want to take the longer ride on the C'dale if you were concerned about the comfort issue. Well, I haven't ridden any of their recent bikes, so I can't help, except to say that they aren't supposed to be quite as bone rattling as they used to be, and anyway, long distance comfort is more about fit and your tires (brand, width, inflation). I don't even know how much they want for this C'dale--this is an Ultegra bike for $2000 or something? Steel has come a long way in the last 10 or so years--the current steel frames are almost as light as ti (often within half a pound or less) and very responsive. I'd look at the IF and Steelman frames, and if you want ti, the Dean El Diente offers a lot of bang for the buck (Dean has a steel frame that is a screaming deal, too). If I was buying a bike today, it would probably be a Steelman SR or a Dean El Diente. I think you could build up either bike with Chorus or Dura Ace for around $2500, less if you were okay with Ultegra (if you don't want to do it yourself, Dean and Steelman will build 'em up for you). You won't be able to test ride either bike, but my guess is you have a pretty good idea by now what you are looking for in terms of fit. My rambling and possibly useless $.02. Good luck and have fun!
My experienceCrash
Dec 18, 2001 11:02 PM
I have a Canny R2000si, really nice bike that I like riding, but I have found out that for rides over 30 - 40 miles it DOES get a bit stiff. If I knew when I bought the bike that I would be riding so much (90-130 miles a week when weather permits) I would have gotten something different.
The old timers like meStraightblock
Dec 18, 2001 4:32 PM
definitely get special treatment at my favorite LBS. When I was new bike shopping last year, Rich let me take a bike home for the weekend with no signature, no credit card #, just our history. He knew I wasn't likely to total it (although that's why I was shopping in the first place) & wasn't going to rip him off. Another good local shop I've patronized for years insisted we take a tandem on a lengthy test ride before we bought it.

But 20 years ago when I worked my way thru college at another LBS, we rarely let anyone leave the parking lot on test rides. The shop owner said it was because of insurance. We didn't sell many high end bikes, so most people didn't care. And during the same era, a friend went out of town bike shopping & crashed a bike on a test ride. He had to buy the damaged Cinelli saddle & bars, & Super Record pedals and brake levers before the shop owner would let him go.

If the shop's never seen you before, don't expect favors. If you bring your bike in regularly to get broken parts replaced, don't be surprised if they want to hold a credit card or driver's license while you test ride. Shops that know you, your experience and spending habits will give you extra perks. They know you'll be back with your wallet, and will send them new business, too.
I agree.Ahimsa
Dec 18, 2001 5:40 PM
One local shop that I frequent knows me well enough and lets me get away with things I would not ask for elsewhere.

As for test rides? They hold your ID, make sure you wear your helmet out the door (even provide one to the organ donors) and let you loose with the bike.

I've been out 45+ minutes on bikes no problem (longer with one of the wrenches riding along on another bike for comparison and for kicks). Then again I've never wrecked a shop bike god forbid, so I dunno what the policy is ("you break it, you bought it" I suppose, but I never signed anything or read a posting of policy).

Good service. Helps to know people though.


re: LBS owners/employees please readallervite
Dec 18, 2001 9:36 PM
An hour long is not going to ride a bike into the ground. A shop needs to try and develop relationships with its customers even more so than a customer needs to develop the same relationship. Offer to leave a deposit, offer to pay a rental fee, assure them that if you break it, you will buy it. You might try kissing a little ass too.
completely agreeApplejuice
Dec 18, 2001 9:48 PM
Having been a mechanic and a manager for an LBS, I can tell you some interesting stories. We ALWAYS let our customers demo bikes. In fact, we encouraged it. Sometimes I even had to convince people.

That said, if a customer wanted to ride for more than twenty minutes, I became nervous.


Simple. I can tell you many stories of customers wanting a test ride and then they come back with the back half an hour later. They leave. The next day the owner looks at the $3000 road bike and wants to know why it has two scratches on the frame. Or why something is missing. Or dented.

Now we have to reduce the price and hope that someone will buy it. People take test rides often and many times do not return (despite their assurances that they would). This is normal, but the depreciation incurred is beyond our financial limits.

Let's put it this way: Would you buy a $2000-3000 bike if their were a few nicks in it from other people test riding it? If that $100 pair of tires were a little worn? If there were some minor scoff marks on the cranks? If so, then you are a minority. Nearly every single customer wants a brand spanking new bike. Some even demand that we special order it - just so it's out of the box. I can understand their point, but please understand our point. As the other guy already pointed out - we can't afford a fleet of demo bikes. It would bankrupt us. Literally.

Moreover, consider the annoying flip side of the coin - the guy who test rides one of our bikes three or four times, asks a zillion questions, tries on shoes, gloves, gets fitted, all this and more - and then he goes and buys it on-line for less.

How do I know? Because occasionally he comes in for a $5 brake or derailler adjustment, adding insult to injury.

I understand your dilemma as a consumer myself, but please understand the LBS dilemma of risking so much and not only gaining nothing, but losing a lot. For a single store, even well run, this is not a viable avenue.

All that said, we always tried to make our customers as content as possible with their purchases. If something wasn't working, we would allow them to switch out a component, even though it wasn't brand new anymore. We always made the effort to delivery a great bike and great service. But we do have to pay our bills and still eat.
Dec 19, 2001 8:06 AM
We let a select very few customers take extended test rides, and only then if we were reasonably sure the reward would be worth the risk.

How many of you have put little scratches in one (or both) of your crankarms? Almost everybody does, and the scratches appear after very little riding. And nobody wants to buy a bike that already has scratched crankarms. So if it's a Record crank, your test ride could cost the shop $200 if you decide not to buy the bike. Or to buy the bike with Chorus (you've mucked up the Record crank, but want a Chorus one on your bike).

Long test rides on high-end bikes are a great idea, but from a financial standpoint, they are impossible.
re: LBS owners/employees please readbadabill
Dec 18, 2001 5:25 PM
Some of the bigger shops here in socal will let you rent a bike for the weekend, with a refund if you decide to buy. If fit is your main concern let a pro shop fit you, they will refund the price when you buy. If 2 or 3 grand is your budget I think you will find most bikes will ride great, It comes down to fit.
re: LBS owners/employees please readMikeC
Dec 18, 2001 5:49 PM
I also agree that the key to an LBS letting you test a bike for a long period is a pre-existing relationship with you. I've even been allowed to load a bike on my car and take it home for my wife to try out!
The ultimate insult for an LBS, of course, comes from the guy who tests a bike at the shop, gets fit for it, then buys it over the Internet.
re: LBS owners/employees please readTiger
Dec 18, 2001 6:05 PM
Ditto on the above. This probably happens more often than we think, and I'm sure most of us have at least checked out a product at the LBS, and then found it on the internet for much less and bought it. Not so much of a problem with frames as it is with accessories. There are times when I buy from the LBS knowing that I could've gotten it cheaper from a web site. I'm sure it would be frustrating to let people test out your stuff and abuse it, and then buy it somewhere else.
I disagree on this pointgomer
Dec 18, 2001 7:18 PM
Most of the higher end road bike manufacturers don't sell on the web and, in my case, I WANT a LBS to back me up.
I feel your pain ...tarwheel
Dec 19, 2001 5:47 AM
I was in the same situation a year ago. I was ready to buy a new bike to replace my 15-year-old steel Bianchi with downtube shifters. My LBS, which I have used for years and bought several bikes from, primarily stocks aluminum frame bikes now. I was reluctant to shell out $1,500 for an aluminum bike without a decent test ride, say 20 miles or so, because I had doubts about the comfort level compared to steel. My LBS wouldn't let me ride the bike any longer than the usual 15-minute ride from the shop. So what did I do? I bought a used aluminum bike over the internet for half the cost. I rode the aluminum bike (also a Bianchi) for 6 months and decided the ride just wasn't for me -- too much road buzz and vibration.

When I decided I wanted to go back to a steel frame, I checked my LBS again, but they could only special order me a quality steel frame -- for big bucks. So I had a professional frame fitting done at another bike shop, and then ordered a new steel bike from a mailorder/internet company out-of-state -- for about $500 less and much quicker than a special order from my LBS. Although I would have preferred to patronize my LBS, I didn't feel like they were willing to go the extra mile to satisfy a longterm customer. Be forewarned, though, if you decide to order a bike over the internet/phone, make sure you have a fitting done and know what size frame, stem, handlebar, etc. that you need.

Regarding your choice between the Cannondale and the Litespeed, I would ask: what is your goal in riding? If you want the fastest possible times and aren't concerned as much with comfort, get the Cannondale. If you want a reasonably light but comfortable bike, get the Litespeed (assuming you're talking about the Classic, Tuscany or Arenburg -- not Ultimate or Vortex). Aluminum bikes are definitely more comfortable now than they used to be, but almost all of them will transmit more road buzz and vibration than a good steel or ti frame.
my peeveCrankist
Dec 19, 2001 7:28 AM
Most of the LBSs in my area don't stock much (parts & bikes) but will order it ($ down please!) for full retail or retail+. This to me falls into the "kiss my shiny Irish ass" category - I buy it online MUCH cheaper. But I have never and will never bother the LBS to loan me (or fit me) a stock item and then buy it online. That bites.
Hey tarwheelErik W
Dec 19, 2001 7:53 PM
How is the Gios treating you? I remember you having some problems with the headset/spacer issue. What was the solution to that? Erik W
Hey tarwheeltarwheel
Dec 20, 2001 5:22 AM
The Gios has worked out great. I ended up keeping the threadless fork and using a riser stem. I've got the bars set at a comfortable height for me, and I'm actually able to ride in the drops now more than I ever have before. The frame is super comfortable and the shorter top tube really works for me. The Gios is a beautiful frame and the color is incredible. People ask me about it all the time on group rides. I even had a bike shop owner drooling over it one day.
Risk vs. benefitnee Spoke Wrench
Dec 19, 2001 7:15 AM
What we are talking about is risk vs. benefit and it cuts both ways.

If you could have your way, you'd like the bike shop to take all of the risk that if you ride the bike and like it, you will choose to buy it from them.

The bike shop would like for you to take all of the risk that if you buy the bike from them you will be happy with your purchase.

I think there may be a way around this. Offer to pay $100.00 to rent the bike with the understanding that the rental will be applied toward the purchase. If you hate the bike you have limited your loss to $100.00 and the bike shop can afford to significantly discount the bike for the wear you put on it. That's sharing the risk.
Good idea, but come on..gomer
Dec 19, 2001 11:25 AM
You're telling me I can go out and test drive the !@#$% out of a brand new car or motorcycle with nothing more than a wave and a smile but I have to bend over and pay these guys for a freakin' test ride. I think it sucks and the guys whining because they can't make any money doing it have a flawed business model/location/attitude.
Good idea, but come on..jaybird
Dec 19, 2001 11:58 AM
Flawed business model??? what are you talking about??? Bike shops have one the most customer oriented retail business models out there...

What incentive or sign of good faith have you given to the shop that would cause them to trust you with a $3000 ride with just a "wave and a smile"

If you dont like the way the shop is treating you go somewhere else.

Quit Whinning...
up to a pointco
Dec 19, 2001 12:05 PM
in some states more than x number of miles on a new car means it must be sold as used
yeah, sureJack S
Dec 19, 2001 7:42 AM
and what if you crash it or get hit by a car? are there not insurance issues? this is why some mgfers have demo bike or demo days.
yeah, surenee Spoke Wrench
Dec 19, 2001 9:31 AM
So what happens if you crash or get hit by a car during a 15 minute test ride or at a Trek bike demo day?
yeah, surebn
Dec 19, 2001 9:54 AM
Trek would write off cost of bike under marketing budget. Probably make you sign a waiver before taking the bike, too.
you're lucky you get 20 minute ridesColnagoFE
Dec 19, 2001 7:58 AM
When you ride a 62cm frame test rides are most always out of the question. I almost always have to buy my bikes "unridden" and go on reviews and what the LBS recommends.
another thought - maybe a trainer?Dog
Dec 19, 2001 12:55 PM
If fit is the real issue, perhaps they'll let you do an extended ride on a trainer in the shop? Won't tell you how it handles or handles bumps or anything, but it's better than nothing.

you should know better!Jack S
Dec 20, 2001 6:03 AM
The shop would want to sell him the bike, not discourage him from cycling altogether...

I can see where a trainer can help with fit, but as far as a test ride goes I would think it's WORSE than nothing.